Knox County Food Council (KCFC) invites the public to a virtual gathering on Tuesday, February 14 to learn about an ongoing collaboration between a land trust and gleaning group to increase Mainers’ to access to healthy food in the Midcoast. The presentation will begin at 5 p.m. and feature farm manager Aaron Englander and the Teen Ag Crew at Erickson Fields Preserve, and Lorain Francis and Nancy Wood, founders of the Knox County Gleaners (KCG).
In 2022, MCHT’s Teen Ag Crew harvested 19,514 pounds of vegetables in their 4-acre garden at Erickson Fields, a preserve of Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) located at 164 West St, Rockport. Through Mainers Feeding Mainers, a program of Good Shepherd Food Bank, 90% of the produce supplied hunger-relief agencies. With the help of Knox County Gleaners, a volunteer group that gleans produce from farms to distribute to those in need, the produce supplied seven food pantries, three soup kitchens, two senior homes, and ten non-profits that are making free food accessible to the community.
The KCFC’s 2023 planning, a result of several meetings over the fall of 2022, identified a group consensus around the importance of centering the voice of the recipient in food security efforts. During the February 14 meeting, Englander and Francis will share how they have used feedback received through pantries and other distribution sites to improve their outreach. For example, the Teen Ag Crew are growing more chard and less kale for food pantries because of their clients’ preference.
“We have a lot to learn from people’s lived experience. Personal stories, like someone resorting to hitchhiking to get to the food pantry, shine a light on what the barriers to access are,” says Francis, in a KCFC news release. “We’re trying to meet people wherever they are – at the doctor’s office, library, or school – and make local food available to them, regardless of what they can afford. Someone returning their books at the Rockland Public Library might take home squash and potatoes in the same trip.”
“Our Teen Ag program has been growing produce for food pantries for over a decade. Since we partnered with the Knox County Gleaners in 2019, we’ve doubled our number of distribution sites to include community hubs where we can reach more people,” says Englander.
The presentation will be followed by a Q&A with the presenters. All are welcome to attend and may receive the Zoom meeting information by registering online at aldermere.org/kcfc-registration or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Knox County Gleaners, and Good Shepherd Food Bank are founding members of Knox County Food Council, a cohort of Knox County partners advocating for a community-based healthy food system for all. The Council hosts public Zoom meetings from 5-6 PM on the second Tuesday of each month. For more information about KCFC, MCHT, and KCG visit aldermere.org/kcfc, mcht.org and knoxcountygleaners.me.